WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING CONTENT
When I was growing up my parents probably did the right thing by me and kept me pretty much secluded from adult horror films in general (save for some cheeky viewings of The Exorcist, The Thing and Ichi The Killer at mates places). I pretty much kept away from the genre until 2006 when I landed in film school and discovered a passion for horror in all its forms, and the history of it fascinated me. Everything from how makeup and prosthetic effects evolved from the earliest days of artist John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to the way historic 1900s silent films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari could convey a feeling of terror (although ridiculously dated by today’s standards).
I became obsessed with sourcing the cult 70s classics, and my film school buddies and I spent two years doing all sorts of ridiculously crude fake trailers and homages (coming up with double feature names like I piss in your eye / I shit in your mouth to give some context). We would host back-to-back grindhouse film nights featuring some of the most obscure 70s cult and exploitation films, and as a result we discovered what an awesome (and genuinely lovely) community the horror crowd really is.
Fast forward to 2019 and although I still try and find the time to source new and interesting films when I can (I’m mostly watching 80s stuff I missed growing up), my movie time is drastically reduced and I find most of my spare moments are involved in video game culture.
I finally thought it was time for a trip down memory lane, why not meld some of my two favourite things and see what ridiculous concepts I could come up with? The list below is the first, with more to come (time permitting). Obviously, it can be difficult trying to fathom how certain horror films could ever work as a video game unless themes were dialled down and drastically changed, or subject matter given an alternate vision and more of a satirical poke. As such I have attempted to pick films that, although might not be on the pinnacle of extreme, would possibly somehow work with an interactive narrative. Although realistically these would never happen (and nor should they).
So, without further ado, grab a bag of popcorn (or a sick bag if that’s more your style), suspend disbelief for a moment, don’t take this too seriously and let’s see what awesome ideas I can give away for free.
Dir. Jörg Buttgereit / 1987 / West Germany
A street sweeper who cleans up after grisly accidents brings home a full corpse for him and his wife to enjoy sexually but is dismayed to see that his wife prefers the corpse over him.
Ahhh, 1987. The year I was born into this world. Full of innocence and wonder for the life ahead of me. Also, the year that films about fucking dead bodies in Germany was a thing.
Nekromantik, despite the absolutely sick premise is actually a lot tamer than you might expect, save for a few vomit inducing scenes involving licking rotted human heads like the freshest Wendy’s ice-cream flavour on a Summer’s day. Plus there’s some weird love-making moments, which now I think about it have more substance than any chemistry in the Twilight films.
The director of Nekromantik, Jörg Buttgereit, has gone on record saying this movie is an act of rebellion against the German censorship system, and as such the film is heavy on the shocks but light on any cohesion or meaningful narrative on the story front. Kind of like a standard romance film, except in this one people are moist husks. So how in the actual fuck could a film like Nekromantik transition into an interactive game? Well, to be frank, it never would unless you absolutely flipped the narrative around and gave Neil Druckmann and the team from Naughty Dog or David Cage and Quantic Dream a crack at it.
There is a story of love here, buried (pun intended) somewhere deep inside the mind of our protagonists Dakarti and Beatrice. Getting shafted because your wife prefers a dead dude over you has got to be a worse blow than realising deep down you enjoy watching Married at First Sight. Beatrice has something wrong with her, I mean no normal human being would have these urges, and so an interactive story-based tale akin to Telltale Games first season of The Walking Dead (pun not intended, seriously) and crossing over with the layered thought process of Senua from Senua’s Sacrifice could bring some light into why Beatrice is so depraved, and what pushes her to these extremes and why she finds solace in somebody that doesn’t talk, breathe or live. A story that focuses on the human condition, rather than the corpse fucking.
And finally, if this concept wasn’t enough to make you puke already. The film has a sequel, the family-friendly Nekromantik 2 released in 1991 which is somehow even more messed up than the first one.
Dir. Alexandre Aja / 2003 / France
Best friends Marie and Alexia decide to spend a quiet weekend at Alexia’s parents’ secluded farmhouse. But on the night of their arrival, the girls’ idyllic getaway turns into an endless night of horror.
Alexandre Aja has a pretty solid catalogue as one of the more extreme mainstream directors to hail from France in the early 2000s, He directed the (honestly, pretty awesome) Hills Have Eyes remake back in 2006, as well as the film in which Harry Potter becomes Satan with Horns in 2013. It was Horns that managed to cement him as a household name among the hardcore indie/arthouse horror circles, but his entire body of work is most certainly worth checking out.
Haute Tension is one of those films that as early as its old school DVD menu presents its absolutely batshit crazy style – the extreme violence and ear shattering sound design are sublime and create a film that defines the word intense. The death scenes are inspired and glorious, including some juicy moments involving a staircase as well as some fine use of a concrete band saw through a windshield that even The Block’s Scott Cam would be impressed by.
Above all, this is a survival film, where staying one step ahead of the demented severed-head-gobby-loving (yes, that happens) killer is the name of the game. He is a malicious, no-fucks-given force of nature (much like a less cute Jason Vorhees) that could transition well into a short single-player title. We’re talking Resident Evil 4 style tension as well as the pacing and ferocity of the best moments in Outlast when you are running for dear life.
Intense video games that don’t let up are a rare breed. Haute Tension is the perfect example of just how the brave thrill-seeker gamers out there looking for a rush could have that appetite satiated. Hell, don’t even give the thing a menu or pause option!
If you haven’t seen the film yet I highly recommend it, as it has one of the craziest bait-and-switch ending twists you honestly won’t see coming (I haven’t spoiled anything for you). It’s actually a wonder the premise alone hasn’t been adapted more into video games already.
À l’intérieur (Inside)
Dir. Alexandre Bustillo / 2007 / France
Four months after the death of her husband, a woman on the brink of motherhood is tormented in her home by a strange woman who wants her unborn baby.
Few modern films have the same levels of ferocity, dread and spraying blood like À l’intérieur does. It takes the tried and true concept of a typical home invasion, tows it to the local Red Cross blood bank, shoves its arse full of explosives and lights the fuse; when this thing gets going, it really pops.
Our key character Sarah is doing it tough over Christmas. Pregnant in a lonely apartment and still mourning the loss of her hubby who got obliterated in a recent car crash not that long before, things are gloomier here than the day we learned Firefly was cancelled.
Queue the introduction of ‘The Woman’, a no-holds-barred absolute lunatic who waltzes into the film like a walking chainsaw after seven nights straight binging Red Bull and meth who proceeds to make you question just how far the film will go, and it goes pretty damn far! Like some fucked alternate dimension episode of My Kitchen Rules featuring Hannibal Lecter and Jeffrey Dahmer as the leading couple. Cutting, slicing, stabbing and burnings are sprinkled all over the place like confetti at a Greek wedding and it never lets up once this strange woman appears.
À l’intérieur is an exercise on brutality and just like Haute Tension, survival, but this film goes for the jugular much harder than the aforementioned. Horror games like the ill-fated P.T demo when you are cruising through those red hallways at break neck speed come to mind in terms of the madness this film fuels. It is a trip that feels grounded but also quite otherworldly, unconstrained by the conventions of morality that preserves the social fabric.
Maybe an old school CRPG like the OG Diablo where the Butcher chases you around relentlessly might be an interesting left-field approach. Gathering crafting materials to upgrade household weapons (instead of the dungeon setting) and creating makeshift armour from random objects, like a lamp shade for a helmet or a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey for a codpiece? Hell, just strip away all the story and sense and make this a Christmas-themed game in which you lucky dip a present for the worst pair of socks from your Grandma.
Seriously though, films like this and a whole of bunch of the classic 2000s period French horror renaissance movies are dripping with ideas that beg for a setting within the resurging horror video game genre. Very few titles (bar a notable few) have that genuine sense of dread and fear where every single step could be your last. A game that forces you to think on your feet with ingenious ways to survive with whatever you can find lying around might just be what the doctor ordered.
While Nekromantik and stuff like A Serbian Film or Salo are completely out of the question in terms of ever seeing the light of day within the interactive entertainment space (for very good reason, A Serbian Film is an example of a film in my opinion that serves no purpose for even existing), it isn’t entirely implausible that some more obscure horror films might inspire games that are not only brutal but share a core theme of survival.
And most of the time, that is the whole point of a vast majority of games anyway. Don’t die!
Film Synopsis Credits: IMDB